The Agenda: Business | Monocle

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supermarket 1 ––– canary islands

The way of the dinosaur

In April the Canary Islands-based DinoSol supermarket group bought six new locations, bringing its total number of shops to more than 250 across five Spanish islands. What’s behind the brand’s success? “I always say that it’s due to working a lot,” Javier Puga, the group’s ceo, tells monocle. “We are aggressive on pricing and have worked hard to renovate shops and train our staff to provide excellent service.”


The supermarket offered an average of 1,300 product discounts a month in 2023. Its business model combines the conventional SuperDino- and HiperDino-branded shops, where the margins are lower, with the more expensive HiperDino Express offerings in the Canaries’ tourist areas. The latter makes up about a third of its outposts and provides the bulk of its profits.

HiperDino has also stayed true to its roots. Alongside positioning itself as a progressive player committed to getting more women into the workplace and discussing food waste, it has invested heavily in the local food market. Puga says that 40 per cent of products sold are from the Canaries, which works well for overheads. This helped to bolster sales figures to €1.46bn last year and increase its share of the market to 26 per cent, ahead of both Lidl and Spanish giant Mercadona.

It’s quite a turnaround for a chain that was sold to venture capitalists in 1996 and endured many unhappy years. The owners, the Domínguez brothers, were able to buy back the Canary side of what had been a national business in 2012. The ceo says that DinoSol hopes to grow by up to 10 per cent this year. “We have another nine signed [supermarket] projects in construction.” Puga adds that he is eyeing expansion into southern Morocco and Spanish-speaking Equatorial Guinea, alongside some of peninsular Spain’s tourist spots. 

supermarket 2 ––– usa

Shop around

Food retailers in the US had a bumper 2023, with sales at major supermarkets reaching about $846bn (€786bn). Yet the sector is shifting, with shoppers now being catered to by online retailers and independent bricks-and-mortar food shops – and the big brands are taking stock.

Though US supermarket profits were in good health last year, in-store sales at big-format stores fell slightly. In response, many retailers are rolling out smaller iterations of their shops. In March, Austin-based Whole Foods announced the first of several new smaller supermarkets set to open this year in New York. Another big retailer, Trader Joe’s, trialled its first smaller-scale Pronto concept in New York earlier this year. Michigan-based Meijer, Colorado’s Natural Grocers and Arizona’s Sprouts Farmers Market are making similar moves.


“It’s a newer idea in the US and Canada,” says David Soberman, a professor of marketing, at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, noting that the format has long been a staple elsewhere. Tesco, the UK’s largest retailer, debuted its Express supermarkets in 1994. “It’s an opportunity to extend the brand among younger adults who live in cities and don’t want to have to get in a car and drive to do their shopping.”

Smaller city outposts tend to promote their own in-house products more prominently than their bigger-box, out-of-town locations too, Soberman adds. So existing neighbourhood food retailers that stock goods by independent producers won’t necessarily be competing for a piece of the same pie. 

The Entrepreneurs

laura kramer on...
Shooting for the moon

As the founder, chair and ceo of Lonestar Data Holdings, based in St Petersburg, Florida, Chris Stott and his team are aiming to do something that has never been done before: establish commercial data centres on the moon. Lonestar will operate on, in and around the lunar surface, which, it says, provides a safe place to store the company’s payloads. Stott is aware that this idea will raise eyebrows. “Data centres on the moon sounds insane,” he says. “But every day we create 2.5 quintillion bytes of new data, more than the day before. And we were close to losing it all, it almost happened.”


The aim is to store and safeguard humanity’s knowledge by protecting it from cyber threats, natural disasters and all the risks in between. Stott got the idea at a conference in 2018 after the NotPetya malware was deployed. “A few months after that cyber weapon got loose, in the early stages of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, I was approached by people looking for somewhere to store data safely,” he says. A veteran in the aerospace industry, Stott has spent his career looking to the skies, from launching rockets with Boeing and McDonnell Douglas to helping to run space projects for Lockheed Martin. “I was a space entrepreneur before it was trendy.”

Following successful tests involving virtual data centres, Lonestar’s first physical off-planet data centre is scheduled to launch later this year. The infrastructure is transported to space using conventional rockets. SpaceX provides the launch services and, once in orbit, Intuitive Machines or companies like it take the equipment to the moon using lunar landers. — L

For more out-of-this-worl business ideas, tune in to our weekly radio show, ‘The Entrepreneurs’, or download as a podcast.

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